Steel Life

(Vida ferrea)
Manuel Bauer | Documentary

2022 | 95 minutes | Peru, Spain

A train trek from Andes to Pacific, Steel Life exposes the sociopolitical complexities of Peru, rich in resources but poor in health and education.


Peruvian director Manuel Bauer offers a fascinating journey aboard a freight train across Peru, an incredible descent from the Altiplano lead mines, at 4,800 meters altitude, to the Pacific shore.

Set amidst gorgeous landscapes, this understated portrait alternates between a road movie peppered with local flair and the social underpinnings of a country victim to Neo-colonialism.

As the train exits its stations, the film uncovers the country’s disillusioned inhabitants. We find a century-old bar that refuses to disappear, a nurse trying to help children with too much lead in their blood to pass through a metal detector, and a city that devours itself with the memories of the people who live in it.

The documentary exposes the paradox of a country rich in resources but poor in human services. While the country celebrates Independence Day with populist speeches and street parades, its population wavers between skepticism and resignation as its resources disappear aboard foreign cargo ships.


“Manuel Bauer’s documentary debut weaves a vivid tapestry of experiences that captures the complex sociopolitical fabric of contemporary Peru." - Phuong Le, The Guardian

This vivid documentary follows a train from the Andes to Port of Callao on the Pacific coast, capturing [Peru's] rich life and toxic industrial legacies along the way." - Phuong Le, The Guardian

“The ‘railroad movie’ that shows the beauty and disenchantment of today’s Peru.” – Héctor L. Martinez, El País

Main credits

Bauer, Manuel (film director)
Bauer, Manuel (film producer)
Bauer, Manuel (screenwriter)
Yépez, Sandra (film producer)

Other credits

Cinematography, José Luis Salomón; editing, Clara Martínez Malagelada, Manuel Bauer.

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International Critics’ Award; Visions du Réel - FICRESCI Award; Al Este - Special Jury Mention; Alcances-Cadiz International Fim Festival - Best Feature Film; Cinema Verite Iran - Special Jury Award; Pordenone Film Festival - Critic´s Award SNCCI

DIRECTOR: Manuel Bauer


YEAR: 2022

GENRE: Documentary


COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School, High School, College, Adult



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